Analysis of Jylands-Postens Muhammad Caricatures
Group 1 (from the left): Tim Berndtsson, Erik Nilsson, Esmeralda Lohe, Moa Mattsson, Marko Nyyssölä, Axel Barvaeus,
The Muhammad Caricatures
The 30th of September 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Some Muslim factions believe that the Quran forbids the depicting of the prophet Muhammad, which caused many Muslims worldwide to react strongly to the published images. Several Muslim spokespersons claimed that Jyllands-Posten intentionally tried to provoke Muslims by conveying the discriminating view that all Muslims are terrorists, on top of defying the ban against the depicting of Muhammad. Many Muslims, who remained indifferent of the depicting of the prohphet, still felt deeply insulted by the” xenophobia” of the cartoons .Jyllands-Posten replied that the publication of the caricatures was meant to be a statement on the freedom of speech and freedom of the press; a debate regarding the right to freedom of speech versus the freedom of religion arised. The doxa of many Muslim countries differs from the doxa in the Christian/secularized world, a fact that became very visible in the controversy over the cartoons.
In my essay I will try and focus on how the freedom of speech connects with the freedom of religion. How our doxa differs from the Arabic countries on this matter. Why did several newspapers in Denmark (and later other countries) publish the caricatures although they probably knew that they where provoking? The rhetoric response I’ve chosen is a radio debate between one of the chief editors who published the caricatures, Lisbeth Knudsen, and a Danish imam, Abdul Wahid Pedersen. They represent very different views on the discussion.
The purpose of my essay is to analyze medias part in the controversy. I’d like to find out why some papers chose to publish the caricatures and some don’t? Why did they republish the caricatures two years later?
In my essay I have decided to further examine the response upon the Jyllands-posten cartoon controversy given by Swedish politicians. “Swedish politicians” I will hereby define as representatives of the parties in the Swedish Parliament.
I will use an article called ”Svensk linje diskuteras idag” (Swedish Guidelines [for opinions on the cartoon controversy] Discussed Today) published in newspaper Dagens Nyheter 06/02/2006 as a starting point for my discussion. The article contains reviews of short statements made by the leaders of each of the seven parties represented in the Swedish Parliament.
I noted that these statements displays a striking similarity with each other; for example the statements from Vänsterpartiet (The Left Party – socialist) and Kristdemokraterna (Christian Democrats – conservative), parties on opposite sides of the political spectrum, mediates almost fully identical opinions, except slight differences in the choice of words. This is interesting, as the parties usually has different opinions in almost every political matter (in fact: it is their job to have different opinions in almost every political matter…).
This seems to imply that the politician’s statements in this situation are strongly controlled by doxa. The situation is so tense and formalized that the rhetors are almost totally controlled by the situations context. The message, in this case, seems to be evoked by the doxa, rather than from the rhetor; in other words: the message is almost emanated from doxological structures. The message is, to paraphrase Hemingway, only ”the tip of the iceberg”. My essay intends to examine the underlying doxa of the situation, and discover how the doxa affects and controls the rhetorical message.
”Of course we do not falter in our support of the freedom of speech. But with freedome comes responsibility, and I belive that it was irresponsibel to publish the cartoons.”
- Göran Hägglund Kristdemokraterna (Christian Democrats – conservative)
”Miljöpartiet is always ready to stand up for the freedom of speech. But we do not consider it necessary to make a public statement for the sake of Denmark.”
Maria Wetterstrand Miljöpartiet (The Green Party – Green)
”I’m positive to support a joint statement in defense of the freedome of preech. At the same time I would strongly oppose from the rasistic forces who tries to hold Islam and muslims responsibel for terrorism.”
- Lars Ohly Vänsterpartiet (the Left Party – Socialist)
”It must be clear here we stand in questions of freedom of speech and freedome of press. But one must make a difference beetween the right to publish something and the appropriatness to do it.” Maud Olofsson Centerpartiet (The Center Party – Agritarian social liberalism)
I am going to analyze an article written by Pernilla Ouis. She is a Muslim and ethnologist and writes in her article “Vi måste tåla nidbilderna” (“We have to tolerate the caricatures”) that the Muslims all over the world has exaggerated in their protests against the caricatures. The article is published January 7th 2006, a little more than three months after the publishing of the caricatures in Jyllands-posten. The questions I am going to try to get an answer to is:
• What is the intended audience?
• How important is Pernilla Ouis ethos in this article? Could anyone have written it?
• Has Pernilla Ouis adapted her article to Swedish conceptions (doxa) of Islam? If yes, in what ways?
My focus on this assignment will be on the reactions that first were moderately expressed in the Egyptian newspaper el Fagr in October 17th 2005. And then compare it to the “storm” that developed later in January and February 2006. El Fagr began with condemning the caricatures with very little or non-response from rest of the Muslim world. I will investigate what the reasons were for the massive and violent protests that came several months afterward. So the first condemnation from el Fagr will be compared with second more violent condemnation from the Muslim community.
This is a picture of El Fagr’s headline page from their October 17, 2005 edition.
In the upper right corner you can se one of the Mohammed caricatures.
A picture of the Danish embassy in Teheran in Iran when it was attacked several months later.
I am going to analyze an article, written by Abd al-Wâhid Yahaya, at www.islamguiden.com, after the caricatures of Muhammed had been published in Jyllands-Posten.
The name of the article is ”Muhammedkarikatyrerna: Varför känner vi oss kränkta?” (”The caricatures of Muhammed: Why does we feel insulted?”). In the article Yahaya tries to explain why the Muslims reacted like they did. Yahaya just mention the caricatures in the end of his text. The article discusses how a Muslim feel about Islam and the prophet Muhammed and Yahaya let this information explain the question in the title. Throughout the article he talks a lot about that the Muslims are not being understood by the non-religious. Yahaya ends with that the caricatures give the wrong picture of Islam and the Muslims.
I ask myself:
• In which ways does Abd al-Wâhid Yahaya argue to convince the readers that the publishing was wrong, if you remember the strong counter argument: The freedom of speech. And if you keep in mind that several embassys were burned and people were life threatened by the Muslims.
I have chosen to focus on the double episode of the animated TV show “South Park” in which the Mohammed caricature controversy is commented upon. The makers of “South Park” depicted Mohammed in these two episodes, as a commentary on the situation, but the images of the prophet were later censured by Comedy Central, the broadcasting company, before airing.
My ambition is to try to discern how the rhetorical response (the two episodes), and “South Park”s interpretation of the events (the controversy), is affected by American doxa, and if this potential adherence to doxa causes the episodes to be received and perceived differently in Sweden and the US. I also intend to comment on the way Parker and Stone (the creators of “South Park”) satirize on the Mohammed controversy – what elements of rhetorical communication can be identified? Hopefully, I’ll also be able to briefly discuss the actions of Comedy Central – was the censure of the images a rhetorical statement in itself?